Tesco staff strike entirely unreasonable, says Ibec

Pickets placed on eight shops as firm attempts to introduce new contracts for some staff

Staff at eight Tesco stores around the country have mounted pickets outside their stores as members of the Mandate trade union commenced an indefinite strike in a dispute over contracts. Video: Bryan O'Brien


Mandate’s decision to strike at Tesco in a row over terms and conditions for long-serving staff is “an entirely unreasonable move against a good employer”, the Irish Business and Employers Confederation has claimed.

“Despite lengthy negotiations over the past 12 months, the trade unions have refused to accept the recommendations of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and the Labour Court, ” said Ibec’s director of employer relations, Maeve McElwee.

Defending Tesco’s demands for new contracts for staff hired before 1996, Ms McElwee said: “The inflexibility of these old contracts creates unfairness between colleagues and impacts customer service in a modern retail environment.

“This issue is not unique to Tesco and many employers in the retail sector have renegotiated contracts as retail patterns and habits have evolved,” she said adding that longer-serving staff would be compensated for any losses they may suffer.

Pickets were placed on eight shops on Tuesday – three in Dublin; Baggot Street Lower; Ballyfermot Upper and the Clearwater Shopping Centre in Finglas. Elsewhere, the shop at the Manor West Retail Park in Tralee will be picketed, along with the company’s in Deanscurragh, Longford. The others are Navan Town Centre, Kennedy Road, Dillonsland, Navan, Co Meath; Tullamore Retail Park, Portarlington Road, Cloncollig, Tullamore, Co Offaly; and the Vevay Road, Bray branch in Co Wicklow.

Eight more stores will be affected from next Friday, unless an agreement is reached: Artane Castle Shopping Centre, Kilmore Road, Beaumont, Dublin 5; Churchview Road, Kilbogget, Ballybrack, Co Dublin; Roselawn Shopping Centre, Roselawn Road, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15; Drumcondra Road Upper; Phibsborough Shopping Centre; Park Shopping Centre, Prussia Street, Arran Quay, Dublin 7; the branch in Monaghan Shopping Centre, Dawson Street, Tirkeenan, Monaghan, and the Greystones, Co Wicklow shop on Kilcoole Road, Rathdown Lower, Greystones.

Public’s support

Meanwhile, Mandate insisted that the strike could have been avoided. Thanking the public for support on the picket lines the union urged them to continue displaying it in the coming days.

“Given the support the striking workers have received all day, the public clearly recognise the importance of the issues involved here – namely that Tesco Ireland, which has enormous economic power, is attempting to unilaterally impose changes to the contracts of employment for approximately 250 workers,” said general secretary John Douglas.

“If Tesco Ireland is successful with this move it would result in some workers experiencing reduced incomes of up to 20 per cent. The company – which is the most profitable retailer in the country with estimated profits of more than €250 million annually – has never justified the cuts they are seeking to impose on workers who earn slightly more than €14 per hour,” he said.

Calling on the public not to cross picket lines, Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit TD, Bríd Smith said an injury inflicted on one worker is an injury inflicted on every other worker.

“If we allow a hugely profitable company like Tesco to target and victimise 250 workers because they happen to have contracts which allow them to work fixed hours with some certainty it will be a signal to other employers that you can demand complete flexibility and uncertain hours from your workers.

“We need to draw a line in the sand which says very clearly that Tesco, or any other company for that matter, cannot treat their workers in this way by reneging on agreements that they have arranged in the past with their workers.”